Countless Indian women have faced harassment of some form or the other from male passengers on flights, and as often is the case, the abuser is rarely apprehended. Dangal actress Zaira Wasim went through one such a nightmarish experience on a Delhi-Mumbai flight. A middle-aged man who sat behind her, kept his feet on her armrest and ran it over her back, neck and shoulders as she struggled to document the violation and draw the attention of the crew.
"The lights were dimmed, so it was even worse. It continued for another 5-10 minutes and then I was sure of it. He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck," Wasim wrote on an Instagram live story last night. She posted a photo of a man's foot and said, because the cabin lights were dimmed she could not get a better photo as evidence of the trauma she suffered.
She is seen breaking down in the video and saying "It's not done at all."
In a statement, airline company Air Vistara today said it was investigating the incident. However it's unclear if there has been any effort to apprehend the suspected molester whose details are undoubtedly with the airline.
Sources in the airline told ANI that Wasim "had not brought the incident to notice of the crew till the flight commenced descent. After landing the crew inquired about the incident and asked Zaira and her mother if they want to file a complaint but they denied."
However, Tuhin Mishra, Wasim's manager, told news channels that they had in fact approached cabin crew, "but they didn't act".
"We have written to Vistara," he said.
Condemning the incident as "shameful", Maharashtra State Commission for Women's chairperson, Vijaya Rahatkar, said MSCW will direct DGCA to conduct an inquiry in the matter. "We will inquire into the steps taken by Vistara to address the complaint. There should be inquiry about why the cabin crew did not help her. We have directed the Mumbai Police to look into the matter immediately."
Wasim, 17, won a National Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing a young Geeta Phogat in the film Dangal.
As more and more women step out of their homes to explore a wider degree of independence, sexual crimes against them have also steadily risen, enabled by a societal culture rooted in patriarchy and male insecurity. A poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that Delhi is still the "rape capital" of India with a steady rise in sexual violence – 2,155 rapes were recorded in Delhi in 2016 - a rise of 67 per cent from 2012.